You could not possibly draw up a better scenario for the Duke Blue Devils than how the ACC Tournament has gone to date. They started the week off by beating a game Clemson team and then took out two top ten teams in Louisville and North Carolina.
The last two wins saw the team make furious comebacks down 12 against the Cardinals and 13 versus the Tar Heels. During these two wins, Duke showed confidence and played their best basketball of the season.
The bottom line is when Duke gets multiple players hot on the offensive end, they are tough to beat. The Blue Devils will now play their fourth consecutive game in as many days. This time they must find way past Notre Dame .
To defeat the Irish, Duke must put their sensational performance against North Carolina in the rear view mirror. The team can go back and enjoy that win more if they have another game in them. Many expected the Blue Devils to look leg-weary last night and most feel fatigue will play a role this evening.
Only time will tell if Duke hits a wall, but the team has shown that they are up for all challenges of late. You can bet this team wants that trophy. They want to cut down the nets in Brooklyn. They want to be the hot team everyone is talking about going into the tournament.
For whatever reason, Mike Brey and Notre Dame have always played the Blue Devils tough. They were the last team to knock them out of the tournament a season ago. While Duke enjoyed a win over the Irish in South Bend, it was Jeff Capel at the helm in his best job filling in for then sidelined Mike Krzyzewski.
So what I am hinting to here is that Krzyzewski would like nothing more than to beat his former assistant in Brey. That can happen but it will be far from easy. The reason is the Notre Dame program is more or less modeled on Krzyzewski principles. They love the three-point shot, shoot free throws well and play with spirit.
The one place Duke has a clear advantage could be inside. For the Blue Devils to exploit that Harry Giles will have to show up again. In the teams 93-83 win over North Carolina, Giles settled into the game over time and had his best outing as a Blue Devil.
But the big four of late have been Jayson Tatum, Luke Kennard, Grayson Allen and Frank Jackson. This group has been playing much better together by sharing the ball and believing in one another. Tatum is becoming a matchup nightmare, while Grayson Allen is Grayson Allen once again. Kennard has been steady and Jackson is showing he is coming out as well.
Duke will once again be tasked in slowing down a long time nemesis in Bonzie Colson. The All ACC first team player has had major success against Duke. This will be a grand test for Amile Jefferson to keep him in check.
The Irish feature a three-headed monster of a backcourt that consists of VJ Beacham, Matt Farrell and Steve Vasturia. And like the last two Duke opponents, the Irish have a days rest on their counterpart. Another Irish standout in Rex Pflugber actually came close to talking a little smack in saying his team wanted the Blue Devils.
With a late start, Duke has been able to get a little more rest. I expect Krzyzewski to show a few wrinkles against the Irish. In the games against North Carolina and Louisville, he changed up his defenses which spurred key runs.
You will see a spunky effort from both teams in this game where things might even get chippy. It will be physical and feature some runs. In th end, it almost seems as if Duke is destined in my opinion. There has been so much adversity and disappointment and now the team can smell the ACC Championship Trophy. It won't be easy but I am picking Duke to win as I have in every game in the tournament.
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Another great game. Holy mackerel. For us, in the last nine days, we play Florida State, Carolina twice, Clemson, and Louisville. Wow, you know, just to play, and then to win all but one of them is terrific.
Tonight we beat an outstanding team, obviously a team that can win the national title. Did a great job of winning our regular season.
Our guys just fought. When we were down by 13, Jayson got that dunk, called a time-out just to get rested. Let's go. Let's try to make a charge now, and that was the play in Chapel Hill that he tried to lay up, and tonight he dunked it.
Then we came out, and the next play that we scored on I thought was the play of the game for us. We missed, and Grayson chased down a loose ball right in front of our bench, and he hit Luke in the corner. Luke hit it and got fouled, and it's a four-point play.
I thought that Jayson's move and these two guys -- these two guys are very, very special competitors. And then we just fought, and it worked out. Our guys -- they were fouling to get back, and we hit every free throw, or most free throws, and we only had that one turnover.
Again, we're really pleased and proud of the win.
Q. Coach K, you had a new player today by the name of Harry Giles, who was absolutely amazing the 15 minutes he played. And we've seen you a couple times to talk aggressively to get him in the game. What were those talks about? How did you get him to come out and be explosive those 15 minutes?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: It's interesting. Harry said his cousin was going to be out in the audience. Thank you for asking about him.
Harry, the last two games, has been terrific. I mean, his rebounding, and he had four blocked shots. But the energy -- you know, these guys give energy, and Harry -- you know, Harry is coming off of some really bad injuries. He's still -- you know, a year from now will probably get it. And he's put it all out there. When our guys have seen that, it's been a lift. It's been a huge lift for us.
So we're getting better. I said it even when we lost to Syracuse and Miami by one possession each game, that our team's getting better. We just are getting better. And these two guys and Jayson, when they're on the court, those three guys, when they're sharing it and scoring, it's a potent offensive unit. Not a big unit, these guys are guarding big guys and whatever, but a big -- and it's where Harry's contribution is coming in.
Q. Kind of following up on the Harry question. Knowing what he's gone through this season, and you were talking yesterday about the scrutiny that Duke is under, what is it like to watch him have these two games and have that success? Grayson, can you talk about it? He was talking about being a role player and coming off the bench and how he's learned that role, and you've helped him with that. If both of you can address that.
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Let them talk, and if they give the wrong answer, then I'll say something.
GRAYSON ALLEN: Basically, every time I've talked to Harry, I just told him that he's really good, and it doesn't matter if he's coming off the bench, if he's in the game for two, three, four minutes. I think he can play with whoever's out there, whoever he's going up against.
So I told him that. I said, you might be playing limited minutes. You might feel like a role player, but you're not. You're extremely talented, and when you get out there, act like it. Don't be shy. Don't be trying to play into a role. Do what you can do.
That's something I learned my freshman year, and he's learned that, and he showed that.
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: When you have like two ACLs, like it definitely does something to you physically. What I've told Harry, especially this last week, I said, you didn't get an ACL with enthusiasm. Like you're the most enthusiastic kid I've ever been around, and you're not bringing your enthusiasm. That was never hurt. But I think you're not using it.
And I said, just be enthusiastic and see what happens, and I think he's done that. Instead of being methodical and trying to think about everything, he's been more athletic. It's great. I'm so happy for him. And us too.
Q. Mike, just to follow up on what you just said, from a coaching, from a teaching standpoint, just how satisfying is it for you that Harry has gotten to this point now?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Great. If he didn't have that setback in September, I think he'd be really far along. It's just been that kind of season for Jayson, missed eight games and all that. For them to stay with it, not look ahead, like I'm going to the pros and whatever, but a lot of people said, well, Harry shouldn't play and whatever. Harry wants to play. Harry wants to be at Duke. Harry wants to be their teammate. Harry wants to be a college kid and be on Duke's team.
I love him for that, and these guys know that too, and they love him. He's always up. He's always up. He's got such a good personality.
Q. Mike, we've all seen teams that in March kind of get that intangible that carries them through into the tournament. Are you sensing that this team is kind of getting that in this week?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: I think they're getting to know each other really well. Even when we had that seven-game winning streak and Grayson got hurt and Amile got hurt and we didn't have a continuation there. This week, even the game in Chapel Hill, I thought we played well. We just got beat.
So they're getting to know each other better. It's a good time. It's a good time.
Q. Grayson and Luke, this might be hard to answer with Coach sitting right there, but what have you learned? You mentioned the time-out saying let's make a charge. What have each of you learned about the messages he delivers in those moments, what the tone means, what the different demeanors are? Maybe you could address that.
LUKE KENNARD: I'll start, I guess.
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Remember I control playing time, just so you know.
LUKE KENNARD: I think one of the biggest things for us is we have to stay poised in situations that we're in. I think, as a group, we have learned -- we've grown up because of so many different things we've been through this season. We've had so much adversity. But I think we've grown in a sense that, when we are down in games and we want to make a charge, we continue to stay poised. We continue to stay calm. We don't let anything affect the way that we're playing as a group. We stay ourselves, and that's what it's been about, and we've really grown from that.
GRAYSON ALLEN: First of all, he's a pretty good coach. So he knows how to manage the game. That's what he's trying to teach us in moments like that. When we go on a run or when we score, okay, now it's the next play. We need this stop right here. Just learning the ins and outs of the game and which plays are important and what you need to do out of each moment.
That's what he's telling us, and when he's getting us fired up, we focus on the message, and if we need energy, we'll see that from him. So it's really just taking his message in and producing on the court.
Q. What does it mean to you to beat North Carolina here and also to advance to the ACC final?
LUKE KENNARD: I mean, it's huge. Every win is huge for us. We've taken it one day at a time, one game at a time. That's what Coach has been telling us. We've taken it day by day, making sure we're ready to go, making sure we've been rested. It's been good.
Like I said, each win is a big win for us, and today was another one. It's time to move on to the next one, and we're excited for it.
Q. It feels strange to ask you a question about anything being new all these years, but the challenge of four games in four days, never been done in this tournament, four straight wins. Have you made basketball decisions with that in mind, or is it entirely today?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: It's entirely today. Throw it all in today and -- our guys are in really good shape. I was actually amazed today because Carolina really comes at you. They not only came at us offensively, they were playing outstanding defense, really good pressure. So it could have worn us out, and it didn't.
We've cut down on practice time and physical stuff, and they want to win. We have good athletes. So they respond well, and we'll see tomorrow. Tomorrow, that's four in a row, and we'll play -- whatever it is will be really good. And we won't see anything like that in the NCAA Tournament. So this is very unusual.
But we've gotten better here. That's the main thing. We've gotten to know each other better. Playing against a team that's really desperate in Clemson and two teams that could win the National Championship in Louisville and North Carolina, just so opportunistic for us. And what everyone was saying about this bracket or that bracket, we just said we've got a chance if we can keep winning with a chance to play against the best in the conference. It's been the best.
Q. Mike, you went to that bigger look today, a little bit against Louisville too, with Jayson at the three, Harry and Amile on the inside. What does that do for you going forward? How much more confidence do you have after these last two games with that group?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: It means we have different opportunities, different looks. Offensively and defensively, we have different matchups. We're more of a team that looks for matchups, looks for things that we can try to exploit. We're not as much a play team, as much as they have a lot of freedom, and they should have it. And that gives us a new look like for Luke and Grayson to run around, two big guys, instead of Jayson being down there and popping out.
Defensively, it might give us a look about the zone. We've used zone the last two days. And it adds to our inventory, which is great.
Q. Grayson, you hit your first four three-point attempts. Were you feeding off the environment at all? And just after the past two games, how high is your confidence?
GRAYSON ALLEN: First of all, my confidence is the same. It doesn't move whether my shots are going in or not. For me, just when I'm coming off the bench, I'm just coming in and trying to give energy. Once I see the first one go in and I get another open one, just keep shooting, and that's the confidence that Coach has in me just to keep shooting. If I don't shoot it, the guys are going to tell me I need to shoot it.
Really, it's just coming in and trying to explode. I've been able to do that the last two days, and I want to continue to do that.
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: I should have mentioned this. If he doesn't do what he does in the first half, we're down by 20. I mean, we could get blown out. I thought he saved us in the first half.
And that's what we need. If it's not him, then feed off Luke or, you know -- but him, what he did in the first half, they were playing a lot better -- they were playing a lot better than us than the score indicates. And his four threes made it look like we were okay, but we were close. It was almost a third round knockout, you know, without him playing the way he did.
Q. Seeing Shelden Williams gave me flashbacks to the days when Duke held teams to 39 percent from the floor. This team has not done that, but it has excelled at defending the three-point shot. Everyone knows Duke shoots the three so well. How do you defend the three so well? A huge factor, North Carolina was 5 of 22.
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: I think they're accustomed to how people get threes. That's their territory. They know how to score from it, and they know how to defend it. You are who you are, you know. We can't defend inside as well, but on the perimeter we have really good players. Not that we don't have as many or as bulky. You've got to, if it's a ten-round fight, try to win six of them. Try to win certain aspects of the game and know that you're not going to win all of them.
But if we can be really good at shooting it and defending it, that differential in the game can be the difference. And tonight that helped us.
Q. Mike, sorry to ask something of a philosophical question.
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: That's all right. I'm in a philosophical mood.
Q. As am I.
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Why is that funny for a Polish coach? We're not allowed to be? Are you making fun of me?
Q. No, sir.
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: All right.
Q. If we can go back to the Tatum dunk and your time-out there, some coaches might be reluctant to call that because you've just gotten a big play and stop the game and stop the team's momentum. You obviously saw it as a time to consolidate momentum in your little huddle.
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: I say ignore.
Q. Is that something you used to do back in the days of Army or something you developed?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: I think whatever, good decision or bad decision, I'm not afraid to make a decision. And I make my decision knowing my guys, whether it be Duke, U.S., Army, I don't know my guys as well as I do now. I know these guys. I trust them. They're just moments.
There isn't like this recipe for how you coach a game, where you should take them out, there is not a recipe. You determine based on your team what you're going to do, and I've always done that, and then you pay the price. The price has been good. So it's not perfect, but what the hell.
Q. I had a similar question talking about philosophy. Roy sat in here and talked about his time-out philosophy, and you mentioned you called one after the Tatum dunk to give people rest. I was curious, you also called one in the first half when Justin Jackson hit a three to put them up 33-23. Was there a different purpose for that time-out?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Yes, to throw water in their faces and slap them. I didn't really. Verbally slap them. No, we were getting ready to get knocked out.
Sometimes -- games are not won always at the end. They're won at certain periods of time, and if you can win those periods of time by your feel, as many games as you're in, that's what I try to do. Again, I may not feel the right thing tomorrow night, but I'm going to trust what I feel. I know my guys well, and they know I believe in them, and I give them the freedom to be themselves. So that's what we're trying to do.
It's fun for me doing it that way. It never gets old because they're always -- it's always evolving. Is that philosophical enough? I didn't even use -- I don't think I used a three-syllable word or anything.
THE MODERATOR: If we could go ahead and start with a brief opening statement from Coach, and we'll go to questions.
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: So that was a quarterfinal game. Holy mackerel. Wow, that was a big time game. We're so pleased and proud of the win because we beat a heck of a team and a team that could win it all really.
We just made some shots and played our hearts out. They played their hearts out. We hit a couple more shots than them. I don't know how you can split hairs on that game. Both teams played so hard. That was a heck of a game, just in case you didn't know that. I would hope that you would know that.
Hopefully, we have some gas in the tank here as we push on. I'm proud of my guys and made big time shots. When we got down by double digits, made a little change defensively. But defensive rebound, and we attacked. We started attack. They attacked us so much in the start of the second half, we were on the bottom of a hill covered with snow catching a sled. Their fast break, man, they were just coming at us. We just had to do something to stop momentum. These guys were able to do that.
Again, we beat an outstanding team. Obviously, I love -- Rick and I are great, great friends and admire everything that they do in their program. It was a big time win for us.
Q. Grayson, first off, congrats on the win. My question is after your scoreless in the first game, it's the first time you haven't scored since 2015, in the Elite 8 game against Gonzaga. What does it mean to put out a good performance in a big game, and what's your confidence like going into the game against North Carolina?
GRAYSON ALLEN: Well, I've had a lot of confidence. It's big for a game like this because I was happy I was able to contribute to the team in what we did. We really needed a spark off the bench, and I didn't think I did a good job of that in the first game. So I thought I could be better than that.
Today when I came in, it was really just trying to give these guys energy. A lot of our starters played big time minutes just 24 hours ago, where I had a little bit fresher legs and was able to go out there and really just attack and hopefully pick the team up and give us a little spark.
Q. Mike, obviously, when you talk about Duke versus UNC, that's a sacred thing. Obviously, those games are played in Durham or Chapel Hill or Greensboro. Is it at all awkward or different that this game is taking place tomorrow so far from home in New York?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: No. I sound like Popovich, don't I? I spent the week with him in the summer. So he told me how to answer a good question, a really good question, but with a very short answer.
We're going to enjoy this for just a little bit before we think about them. The bottom line is we're going to play two Final Four caliber teams in a row in 24 hours. I mean, Louisville and North Carolina are Final Four caliber teams. We just played them, had a great game. If we're fresh enough, I think it will be a great game.
Q. As you guys were coming up the stairs, it was nothing but joy on all of y'all's faces. Tell me about this win and how happy you guys are for this win.
JAYSON TATUM: This was big time for us because, obviously, we lost to them early in January. We realize that we're a much different team from then. We went through a lot of ups and downs. We're continuing to grow and learn and get better each and every day. So this was a big stepping stone for us.
Like Coach said, Louisville is a Final Four caliber team with a great coach and great players. So for us to come back and play the way we did today after a good win yesterday in less than 24 hours was huge for us.
Q. Coach, can you talk about going to the zone and its effectiveness and then why you changed on the last possession back to man.
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Well, any port in a storm, so to speak. We could not stop them in transition in man. They come down so hard.
I don't know if our guys got tired, you know, guys who were -- because we had a tough game against Clemson yesterday. So I just thought maybe we could just run back there, everybody try to stop them.
And they missed some shots. It's not like we played a great zone, but it changed a little the tempo. And then we went back to man because we didn't want to give up an open three. So we could switch everything. And our guys, really, that was like the possession of the game defensively for us when we -- our guys switched everything.
Snyder is such a good player. You've got to be careful that you don't foul him because he's trying to draw a foul.
Luke had eight, I think -- what did he have? Eight defensive rebounds, and Jayson had six. That was the key in the second half was the defensive rebounding from our perimeter, which led us to fast breaking. It's kind of like we were fast breaking, and now we were fast breaking.
I had so much fun coaching our team today. I felt like a little kid, man. They were fun to coach. They gave everything. You wanted to not get in their way really. That's why we just called motion, 12, and play. That's a big time coaching strategy. And our kids just played. They played. It's all on them. They played great. They deserved to win.
Q. After Louisville got up 12, your team looked maybe a little tired or certainly looked knocked back a little bit. Within a few minutes, they were reenergized. My question was with the tactics Louisville pressed one time which led to an easy basket, seemed to get him going. You went zone. Was this tactics or more something from within the players?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: I think more from within the players. Always a little bit of tactics when you make a change. I thought in that play, you bring up a really important play because they're going for a knockout punch right there. If you can remember the play, the guy who caught the ball was Marques Bolden in the middle. He passed it ahead and we got a layup. It gave us a spark.
Also, Harry, that's the best Harry played. He didn't hold anything back, and Marques gave us good minutes. It was so good because these guys have fought injury, especially Harry. To see him out there and having fun and being himself, wow.
These guys right here, they're excited -- I hope you're excited about -- that kind of stuff. That's what I mean. Like today was just joy. Obviously, there's joy of winning, but how you win and to see kids put it all out there, it's great.
I mean, Luke, he's not up here, but wow. A couple of his shots were daggers. Daggers. It's fun. It was fun coaching them.
Q. Jayson, and if Coach wants to chime in too. When Grayson gets fouled shooting that three, there was a lot of energy in the building at that point. You had boos and cheers after each shot and a lot of energy on the bench. Did that energy hit you guys? Were you able to use that energy to help boost that comeback?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Well, for me, energy produces energy. I think we already had energy, and people saw it. And then Grayson has played for three years all out. All out. All out. That was another example of it, and his teammates and everyone responded.
And the people who don't want us to win, they responded. God bless everyone. But energy produced more energy.
Q. Grayson, was there a difference in how you felt yesterday, today, or anything that you kind of told yourself mentally last night to kind of rejuvenate today?
GRAYSON ALLEN: No, I just attacked the same way and made some shots today. That was really it. And got going a little bit and just was able to bring us energy when I got in, and then once the whole team got energized, just feeding off of that, like Coach said.
Q. This could be for any of you. Coach, you just talked about the energy today. Usually, when you're playing Carolina, it's either in Cameron or in the Dean dome, where there's energy for one particular team. There's probably going to be energy on both sides. I'm sure Duke and Carolina fans are buying up the ticket from losing teams today. What do you think that energy's going to be like?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Typical. Look, they're a great program. We're a great program. We're two of the great programs. We're accustomed, they're accustomed to playing in buildings that have a lot of energy, for or against them. That's why the kids go to those schools is to be in those moments, to be in a moment like today.
So to be in that moment tomorrow, the people who were in the stands, they have a chance to enjoy that because those moments don't happen all the time. Our two programs have created a lot of them.
Q. You talked about today being pure joy for you.
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Yeah.
Q. You've been through this a few times. When it's pure joy at this point in the season, are those the years that you guys are usually the last ones standing?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Just depends if you have a series of pure joys. There can be pure heartbreak too. Our sport's crazy. It really is. And that's why it's madness. These kids put their hearts -- all these teams, the conference tournaments and all that. They win by a point. They lose by a point. It's what captures our whole country. I'm so happy that I'm a part of it and been a part of it for 42 years.
So to have an afternoon like today, I'm 70 years old, and I felt like a kid. I was hugging him, punching him. He didn't punch back, which is a good decision on his part. I love that. I love that. It's nice to be a guy -- it's nice to be a guy in a situation like that, and we got good guys.
Q. Amile had a long stretch on the bench in the first half. Is he okay?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Yeah, he's okay. I think he's worn out. He had to play the two big guys from Clemson, and Harry was playing so well that I just felt too that, one, I think, if he's playing well, we've got a better chance to win. But, two, going forward, to get him time in a game like that was really valuable. Very valuable. And it turned out it was more than just getting him time. He produced.
But he's okay. He'll be ready to go.
Q. Mike, what's it been like for you to watch Grayson this year, you know, go through physically and emotionally what he's gone through, and how hard was it to keep him on the bench even last night in crunch time?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Well, he wasn't ready to play as well last night. Look, I love Grayson. Grayson, I got his back all the time. And everyone in our program has his back all the time. We're just -- the public eye on our program is a blessing and can be a curse. So we have to be able to deal with all of it.
The thing in dealing with all of it is for everyone to know that we're together. I believe in him. I love him. And I thought what he did today was sensational. I loved it. I loved it. He was himself today.
Q. Jayson, can you tell when your team's playing well defensively -- you guys had some really good stretches on defense today and had some other stretches where they were getting easy baskets. Are there some things you're able to tell focus-wise or things you're doing when you're playing well defensively?
JAYSON TATUM: Just when everyone is in a defensive stand and talking. That's when we're at our best. It has to be all five guys. It can't just be two or three that are just talking and the other two are not. When all five guys are talking in a defensive stand and trying to get a stop together, that's when we're at our best.
Q. Coach, you said you're 70 but you felt like a kid today, and today was more proof that you're still able to get some of the best players in the game. How do you reach prospects who are a lot younger than you are and still connect with them and get them to come play for you?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: It's called communication. You're in the communication business, right? And being honest with them. I think I can -- do I still get along with you guys?
GRAYSON ALLEN: Yeah.
JAYSON TATUM: Yeah.
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: One thing about coaching, you're always with young people, so you're able to stay younger. I'm lucky. I've done what I wanted to do since I was 16, and I've been able to do it at two great schools. They bring kids like this in. This school brings a little bit more talent than the other one. But it's been fun.
When you're around good people all the time, you don't age as badly, let's put it that way. At least I hope it looks like I haven't aged that badly. Thank you all.
The Duke Blue Devils took care of business against Clemson where three players scored 20 point each. Duke will likely need more production from someone other than Jayson Tatum, Luke Kennard and Frank Jackson today to defeat a better team in Louisville.
The Blue Devils hope to exact revenge on the Cardinals which handed Duke a defeat in the Yum Center earlier this season. To do so, they will need more than the two total points they got from their bench yesterday.
It's clear at this point and time that Duke may not see a healthy Grayson Allen for some time. The pre season player of the year put up zero points yesterday and got a controversial technical foul called on him.
Fortunately for Duke, freshman Frank Jackson has been making the most of his opportunities while Allen tries to recover from a severe ankle injury. Make no mistake, Jackson must remain consistent for Duke to have any chance of advancing in the tournament.
Luke Kennard shook off a shaky shooting start where he went 1 of 9 in the first half of the win over Clemson to star in the 2nd half. Kennard always has the green light for Duke and he shot his way out of the slump which helped Duke gain their 24th win of the season.
Jayson Tatum also came up huge for the Blue Devils. Tatum has been the most successfully consistent freshman from a top rated class. He was recently named as a finalist for the Julius Erving Award which goes to the nation's top small forward.
Duke coach Mike Krzzyewski played three big men versus Clemson in freshman Harry Giles and Marques Bolden. Both had less successful minutes than did little used back up Antonio Vrankovic.
The Blue Devils will take on a much better Louisville team later today. The Cardinals are considered by many to be one of the top teams in the nation. Former Duke graduate and ESPN analyst Jay Bilas lists the Cardinals as one of seven teams that can win it all. He slates Duke in the second tier group as having more question marks.
Duke can show they belong in the conversation with a win over the favored Cardinals. It's time for these Blue Devils to come together if they are going to do so. Look for a close game today in Brooklyn and know anything other than a win for Duke will be a disappointment.
The pick here is Duke 73 Louisville 71
Mike Krzyzewski can pass Dean Smith for the most ACC tournament wins with a victory today.
Duke senior Amile Jefferson has a career high 50 blocked shots this season.
Jim Boeheim rants about the ACC Tournament not going back to Greensboro. N.C. As of right now, you can purchase upper level tickets to the Duke vs Louisville and UNC vs Miami game in the first session for a mere 8 bucks. Nuff said.
Luke Kennard has positioned himself to win the ACC Scoring crown with his 20 point performance. His leading comp in Michel Young of Pitt had 14 yesterday and his season likely ended with Pitt dropping to sub .500.
Duke vs Clemson Post Game Comments courtesy of ACC Media Services -
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski and players Luke Kennard and Frank Jackson talk with reporters after the Blue Devils win over Clemson in the 2017 ACC Tournament.
THE MODERATOR: Well go ahead and open up with a brief opening statement from Coach, and then well go to questions.
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: It was typical game for our conference. Theyre good. Were good. Theyre in kind of a desperate situation, trying to make the tournament. Brads done a heck of a job with his team. Theyve lost more close games than anybody in our league, one-possession games. So to have them up playing well like that for the whole season is terrific job on his part.
I thought we played good defense today. We fouled too much in the first half, but the second half, we held them under 40 percent for the game. And Im proud of our guys. I think their defense did it, and then when you play this second game and its your first game, you havent shot in here, and you only get a 20-minute warmup or 23 minutes and 22 seconds or whatever it is, but its tough to get acclimated. I dont know if thats part of it or whatever, but we didnt shoot well in the first half.
The second half, Luke, Jayson hit big buckets. Frank has played great for us. He gives us a strong presence out there, and he came up with 20 points. So we had three 20-point scorers, which was big.
So we beat a real good team, and now weve got to turn it around and play another really good team.
Q. Luke, you had a tough shooting night, but then toward the end of the game, you hit two big shots for your team. Talk about your psyche going into that and what it took to make those buckets.
LUKE KENNARD: For me, I think, the biggest thing I can take away from this is how much confidence my coaches, my teammates, they have in me. They continue to tell me to be aggressive. And I struggled tonight. You know, we struggled tonight shooting the ball, but we stayed aggressive. We stayed connected on the offensive end.
For me, like I said, just the confidence that they built in me to take my shots, to hunt shots, and to be aggressive, you know, I just kept looking to do that.
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Yeah, he had a bad half. He was 8 for 11. If thats bad, be bad all the time, man (laughter). Thats what I think. I think thats a heck of a performance when a player, it isnt going, and then it goes. That shows like youre a different player, youre a special player when youre able to do that.
Q. I think it was Graysons fewest minutes since his freshman year. Is that related to a nagging injury or fouls or
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: A little bit well, the fouls hurt. He has not I think the injury is a huge part of it because he has not been able to really go after it in practice, and hes lost his timing, his rhythm.
Even today, what did he take? He took four shots, but the two threes he took were right on target, but they were a little bit short. We got to get him going, and these guys will help him because theyre good teammates.
It wasnt a good afternoon for him individually. Collectively, obviously, its a great afternoon for us. When you dont practice at the speed and with the reps that you normally do, it affects your performance. And it has with him.
Q. Any view on the technical from you?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: The one they didnt call or the one they called?
Q. The one they called.
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Okay. Well, whatever they called, they called. They saw it. Kids get technicals. Sometimes they dont get technicals either. They can slap the board, backboard, and not get a technical.
Q. Mike, Matt Jones just said, he said he had a hard time pinning down
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Did you already talk to Matt Jones?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Thats pretty good. Youre a quick son of a buck.
Q. Im faster than I look.
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Youre a hell of a lot faster than you look.
Q. He said he had a hard time pinning down what this teams identity is, and he says its different every night. Do you agree with that, and can that be a positive or a negative?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Crazy as it may sound, I think were still evolving because of all the injuries and interruptions that weve had. But were getting better.
Today we found a new thing with Jayson, how to use him. So how Frank has played hes had a terrific year, but the last four or five games hes been great.
The last 13 games we were 3-4 13 games ago. Weve won 10 out of 13 and had a chance in the other three. I dont know who we are completely, but I have good kids. I have really good kids, and they play hard, and they share the ball. Maybe well develop a little bit more of an identity here. Weve got another chance, lets put it that way.
Q. Coach, great production out of the starting five, but with them playing so many minutes, is fatigue an issue with the quick turnaround in this part of the season with those guys?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Yes, it is, and its a good observation. Weve told our guys, just play one game. Play one game, then play another game. Then if were fortunate enough to play another game, then well try to figure it out, but not the pace.
They didnt do they couldnt today. Thats just the way it is. We have to play again tomorrow at 2:00 or 2:15 or 2:22, whatever it is, and so well play. At least in the NCAA Tournament, you get a day in between. So playing like this might help us get better.
Q. Mike, a little bit of an offbeat broader question
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Is it a Northwestern question?
Q. No, it is not a Northwestern question. But Ive been asking other coaches this and havent gotten a chance to run into you. Youve coached for a long time. Do you ever think back like if you could give your younger self coaching advice, what youve learned, what you may have done differently in the beginning?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Get to Duke earlier. That would be the very first thing. No, I wouldnt Id say be who you are. I think I was really lucky at 28 to take over a 7-44 program at Army, my alma mater, and to have to do everything, and my wife had to do everything, and our whole family got involved. We ended up 73-59, and we learned how to win by looking at every counting pennies. Then we needed to do that to build Duke.
So I wouldnt change it. I think weve maintained that family and looking for pennies. I think weve maintained the hunger because it was ingrained for eight years in our life.
Q. 5 of 6 possessions you scored on early in the second half to take charge of the game for an extended period. The freshmen, Frank and Jayson, played sensationally, but it all started with two jumpers by the guy who went 1 for 9 in the first half. How did you see the offense coming together to take charge there?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Well, I always see the offense coming together if Luke shoots the ball. We have four really good scorers. He and Jayson can really score the ball, but Frank can score, and so can Grayson. If we ever get all four of them going, thats the thats who I would like to be.
Because Amile can score when hes one-on-one, and Matt can knock down an open shot. So we always allow them to shoot. Thats the one thing. No ones saying dont shoot, Luke. Like shoot, Luke. Shoot, Frank. See basket, shoot ball. Its that simple.
I dont know if Luke wants to say anything about it. I dont want to put you on the spot.
LUKE KENNARD: No, not at all. What he said. Thats it. He gives us a lot of freedom to shoot the ball, and he always just tells us to hunt our shots. Thats what we do as a group, and its really, really good.
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: What were learning a little bit more is that not to take a lower percentage shot if they really converge and for our guys to yell for the ball because he and Jayson can really pass, even while theyre in a move. While theyre in their own move, they can still pass. Id like to see us do that a little bit better.
Q. Mike, how possible is it at this time of year with games coming so close together to manufacture the time for Grayson to get healthy and for this team to kind of carve out its identity? How do you kind of do that?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Were just trying to win and doing it that way. Look, Antonio got in the game for a couple of minutes, things like that, really we have to get seven or eight guys there. Id like to see more from either Harry, Marques or Antonio. And if we can get Grayson to be Grayson, thats how were going to get better because it puts a lot of pressure on another team having so many guys out there that can score.
Q. This question is for Frank. You had a huge night. For the last week, youve been showing how great of a freshman you can be for this team. Talk about the 20 points and perfect from the three. How big of this game is for you and your confidence going into this tournament.
FRANK JACKSON: You know, its huge. I think we can really roll off this win and keep going. For me, I always try to stay aggressive. I like to score the ball. Its what I do best. Im lucky to have a coach who allows me to be myself and players that Im surrounded by that give me all the confidence in the world. So I just try to attack early and stay aggressive, and all that carries throughout the game.
Q. Coach, youve coached in a lot of ACC Tournaments. This is the first one in New York City. Another coach suggested earlier today theres no value in having the tournament in Greensboro. I wanted to see your opinion on the value of having it in New York, and is there no value in having it in a place like Greensboro?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Well, obviously, theres been great value having it in Greensboro because this is the tournament that everyone copied, and if we didnt have the support of an entire city to support us and keep adding to their beautiful coliseum, this tournament and this league would not be where its at.
So if the powers to be want it to eventually go back stay in Greensboro or visit or whatever, so be it. I think they deserve that. We still look at it, and I think coming to New York is a huge thing just because weve added we have 15 teams. So a number of those teams played their tournament in New York. So their fan base was accustomed to that. So the ACC schools and then the Big East schools that went, their fan bases were accustomed to two different things.
So to try to find out what the new thing will be, thats what these guys are supposed to do. But having it here is great.
Q. Frank, you mentioned Coach letting you stay aggressive. Last four games, double digit points. What has it been in the last four that has maybe sort of had your game blossom? Or what sort of turned it around? It has also coincided with Grayson being a little banged up. Is that a coincidence?
FRANK JACKSON: Like I said, I just look to stay aggressive. For me, I try to attack earlier in the game so I get going a little bit earlier. I just try to keep attacking and look for the open shot and look for my teammates as well.
Q. Jayson Tatum scored in a variety of ways today, which was a lot of fun to watch, very impressive. Can you just describe his offensive arsenal, and have you had any other players in the past as diverse as him offensively?
COACH KRZYZEWSKI: Yes, thats why weve won five National Championships. Well, Im not going to compare them, but I just said diverse players, whether it be Grant Hill, Justise Winslow, John Scheyer, Nolan Smith, J.J. Redick.
Look, we wouldnt have all the Ive been in a lot of big time games because Ive had a lot of big time players. Ive been in 21 Final Four games. Ive been in 18 of these championship games and 14 Elite Eight games. Thats a lot of big games. You dont get there without these guys. But you have to have these guys, give them the freedom to be themselves.
Jayson is still learning how to do that. Like today he learned a new thing today, and we got two buckets. And if Amile was ready for the pass, we would have had another one on an early post.
These guys will find out that Jayson is actually as good a passer as we have on the team, and that would add to it. But he just cant punish himself when he misses a jump shot. I still think hes too hard on himself when he misses. Thats not us, but he wants to be perfect. You cant be, but he was darn good again today.
Q. Luke, two-part question. Luke, you played 39 minutes, and as Coach alluded, there is a short turnaround. What impact do you think thats going to have on you? Secondly, how do you see the matchup with Louisville under those conditions?
LUKE KENNARD: This is a process. I mean, to play back-to-back days, it can be tough. It can be tough. But for us as a group, we take it very seriously. We try to take care of our bodies as best as we can, and for us, we just have to move on to the next one.
This is a big win for us, but we have to move on to the next one, and the next one is Louisville. We played them earlier in the season. They got a great group. Theyre really talented. They have some size and some really, really good players. So we have to stay locked in, and we have to stay together, and we have to stay tough and just be ready to move on and stay focused.
Q. Frank, Grayson said the two of you had some pretty intense pickup battles during the summer. I was curious what you remembered of those and what your motivation was going into those.
FRANK JACKSON: Id definitely say we got into a little bit in the summertime. Were both really competitive. For me, I learned so much from G. Hes been here for a couple years now, and hes played in big time games. Hes won a National Championship.
So in the summertime, to pick his brain, to work out with him, to kind of follow him around and see how you know, how he wins, its been great for me. Hes a good example to me, and Im lucky to have him and all my guys on the team this year.
DURHAM, N.C. – Duke sophomore guard Luke Kennard opened the national awards season on a high note Monday, receiving first-team All-America honors from NBC Sports and second-team acclaim from USA Today.
Both outlets’ All-America teams are a precursor to the release of the four All-America squads (AP, NABC, Sporting News, USBWA) that are used to determine consensus status.
Kennard leads Duke in scoring with an average of 20.1 points per game while shooting .504 from the floor, .450 from outside the arc and .847 from the free throw line. He is one of two players nationally – and the only major-conference player – to average at least 20.0 points while shooting at least .500 from the floor, .400 from outside the arc and .800 from the line.
The Franklin, Ohio, native has scored in double figures in 30 of Duke’s 31 games this season, eclipsing the 20-point mark a team-high 16 times. He leads the ACC in scoring and ranks second in three-point field goal percentage while averaging the third-most minutes per game (35.6) in the ACC. He is the only ACC guard shooting above .500 from the floor this season (min. 5FG/game).
He has made at least one three-point field goal in 34 consecutive games, tied for the fourth-longest streak in Duke history and the 16th-longest stretch in ACC history.
Kennard eclipsed the 1,000-point mark for his career on Feb. 25 at Miami, becoming just the 12th Duke player (and fifth under Mike Krzyzewski) to hit that milestone prior to the end of his second season. He has an opportunity to become the fifth Duke player – and first since Christian Laettner in 1992 – to average at least 20.0 points while shooting at least 50 percent from the field.
For his career, Kennard owns averages of 15.6 points, 4.4 rebounds and 2.0 assists in 30.8 minutes. He is a career .466 shooter from the floor and .384 from three-point range. Kennard’s .863 career free throw percentage is currently the second-best in Duke history (min. 200 FTs made).
He has scored at least 20 points in more than one-third (23-of-67) of his games in a Duke uniform.
Kennard was the only unanimous choice for first-team All-ACC honors this season, and was also named a member of the national ballot for the John R. Wooden Award and a semifinalist for the Naismith Trophy.
There was little to complain about on the annual Senior Night for Duke Basketball. Cameron Indoor Stadium was packed and vocal and the team responded with a solid 75-70 win over a talented Florida State squad.
Trust me, when I say that the score was not that close in that Duke dominated for the majority of the game. Led by freshman Frank Jackson during and explosive sequence, Duke now finds itself heading to North Carolina on an up note.
Jackson electrified the Crazies during an outstanding sequence of basketball where he was aggressive with the ball on the offensive end. Jackson would end the game with a career high 22 points from key three-point makes and slashing drives to the rim.
But Duke was more than just Jackson. Playing his last game in Cameron, Amile Jefferson put up another double-double of 14 points and 11 rebounds. The senior captain also led his team in blocked shots with 4 swats to go with a steal. It was a heck of a way to close out his career at home.
Duke was also aided by the continued terrific play of another freshman in Jayson Tatum. The likely lottery pick in the coming NBA Draft almost certainly played his last game in front of the Crazies as well. He had a solid stat line of 15 points, 9 rebounds and a team high two steals. Time after time he rounded up a key rebound when Duke needed it most.
Then there was Luke Kennard. The sophomore is in the race for the scoring leader in the ACC this season. His 17 points and 6 rebounds from the guard spot helped his team go to 23-7 on the season and keep its hope alive for a top four seed in the coming ACC Tournament.
It was quite simply a very good game for the Blue Devils and they now ride momentum heading to Chapel Hill to face league leading North Carolina. Duke will need some help from other teams and a victory in that game to earn a top seed which benefits from a double bye.
The Blue Devils closed out another good year at home, losing just a single game. Mike Krzyzewski won his all time league leading 228th ACC win on his home court. He has 993 wins now at Duke, seven shy of the coveted 1000 mark. Dean Smith is in second with 879 wins at North Carolina.
Other notes of interest include that Amile Jefferson became a 1000 point scorer. Frank Jackson is averaging 19.0 ppg in his last two outings. Duke leads the series with Florida State by a comfortable 36-10 mark.
Duke will play North Carolina in Chapel Hill on Saturday in a game that will tip just after eight o'clock. ESPN Gameday will be on hand.